Jeffrey Archer, UK architect of mystery, builds conflict to last.  “Prose is architecture – not interior decoration,” says Hemingway.  Conflict, the skeleton of fiction, takes us into emotional labyrinths, like the ones Archer constructs from the first to last pages of his novels.  As humans we are conditioned not to hurt or deceive people, but as fiction writers, we have to throw ourselves along with our characters into hurtful, life-threatening nightmares and walk away as if nothing happened.  But does nothing happen?  Perhaps some writers are more committed to hurting and maiming – conflict to last.

“Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on you forehead.”  and  “Writing is not something to be ashamed of, but do it in private, and wash your hands afterwords.”

Here is some architectural conflict from Expatriate Bones:

Leonard stepped out of the shadows behind her and nodded at Peter who stood up and retreated to his seat.  “We have a guest.”

“Hello Jess.”

Turning around she recognized his voice.  “Leonard, what are you doing here?”
He smiled.  “I can’t say I’m here for some cheer, but I can make a toast.”  He found a tumbler and brandy on the sideboard and raised his glass in.  “To old enemies, bad deeds and sad families.”  He apologized for not sharing.  “I can’t have you getting warm and fuzzy when we have so many wicked things to say.”

“What’s going on?”

Leonard smiled smugly.  “History 101.”

“What?”  She looked at the Cardinal who had shrunk into his worn, leather cushion.

“I’m sorry.  He threatened to send someone to hurt you if I didn’t get you here.”

Her voice hardened as she confronted Leonard.  “I thought we exchanged something for my safety.”

“I want Petar to give you a crash course on European history from 1938 to 1950.”

“What’s the point?”

“You need to hear this, Jess.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Your family was there, in the middle of the carnage, the mania, the rapture.”

She turned to the Cardinal.  “You don’t have to say a thing.”

“We have to play his game.”

Leonard poured more brandy and brought his tumbler and gun to his chair.  “You need to hear the truth about who you are, who your grandparents were.  What kind of blood’s running through your veins.  The good Father, here, this pious Cardinal plays an important role.”

“I’m in the dark as much as you are.”

“You won’t be for long.  Both of you are my students.”

“Where do you want me to begin?”

“1940.  Borgotara, Italy.  The training camp under Ante Pavelic.  You were fifteen.  Don’t skip a single second.  Jess has a right to know.”

Expatriate Bones

From the Austin Del Rio Files

Montreal.  Winter.  2002.

The investigation of a murdered university student leads Detective Austin Del Rio of the Montreal PD into the crossfire of a bounty hunter’s revenge and a war crime cover-up.

Christine Duma, a med student at McGill University is stalked and murdered because of indicting evidence of an execution she saw.  Minutes before her murder she passes the evidence to Jess Salem, an unsuspecting passenger at a Metro station who thinks the Duma woman is street-broken and watches her terrified face disappear in the rush hour crowd.

Detective Del Rio’s investigation of the Duma murder leads him to Leonard Marsland, a war crimes bounty hunter who has spent a lifetime stripping the power behind sheep’s clothing from the men responsible for murdering his family.  Marsland has planned a serial extermination of three remaining targets on his list.

When Jess Salem becomes an innocent victim of Marsland’s vengeance she teams up with Detective Del Rio and together they fall into an intricate power play until all parties discover what Marsland thought he’d never find – a lost history of tell-tale bones still wearing trinkets and keepsakes of love in the catacombs of Notre Dame Basilica.

Expatriate Bones, a multi-layered mystery reminds us that every decade has its crimes of passion, its brutal revenge-seekers, its hidden corpses wanting history to remember them.  And we do.

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